Mother Nature just opened her door and invited you to come out and play.

There are so many beautiful places that may be new to you, so gather some friends, pack a picnic lunch, lay out a red and white-checkered tablecloth and just because you can — walk barefoot on the grass.

Here’s Mother Nature’s short list of where you can find her. She’s good for the soul.

Historic Gardner’s Basin and Atlantic City Aquarium

800 North New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City


Aquarium hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (free parking) Aquarium admission: $10 general, $7 seniors, $6 ages 4 to 12, free ages 3 and younger

Gardner’s Basin offers dock fishing, boating, sightseeing, parasailing and dolphin watching cruises. Shopping, waterfront dining, and picnic tables are also on site. The historic Diving Bell that took passengers to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the end of Atlantic City’s Steel Pier from 1928-1978 is at the entrance of the Basin. Part of the Basin experience is the Atlantic City Aquarium. It’s stocked with a variety of sea life native to the waters off New Jersey. Touch some sea creatures, get up close to ocean oddities, Moray Eels, a live coral tank, reef predators, land animals, birds and even a rainforest. So much to do and enough time to do it all.

Absecon Lighthouse

31 S. Rhode Island Ave., Atlantic City


Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays (September to June); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursdays (July and August); free parking; dogs on leashes allowed

Lighthouse climb: $7 adults, $5 seniors, $4 ages 4 to 12, $3 Atlantic City residents

At 150 years old with a 228-step climb, the Absecon Lighthouse is 171 feet tall — the tallest in New Jersey. The Lighthouse grounds include a picnic area, keeper’s house, museum, exhibits and gift shop. “Keeper Sleeper” Saturday night sleepovers inside the Lighthouse are available at $45 per person. Advanced registration is required.

Lake Lenape Park West

6303 Harding Highway, Mays Landing

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset

This versatile park offers mountain biking, boating (permit required), camping, kayak/canoe access, cross-county skiing, fishing, a gazebo, hiking, In-line skating, nature trails, a playground, picnic tables and pavilions.

Lake Lenape Park East

753 Park Road, Mays Landing

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset

The amenities in Park East include fishing, new picnic pavilions, softball, volleyball a playground, and an updated catering hall.

Estell Manor Park

109 Route 50, Mays Landing

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to one half hour after sunset (free equipment lending program includes bicycles)

The 1,700-acre Estell Manor Park was the site of a glassworks factory in the 1800’s, then a munitions plant during World War I. Activities include camping, boating, fishing (license needed), picnic pavilions and grills, 20 miles of hiking trails, softball, soccer, volleyball, map and compass courses, fishing, mountain biking, wooden nature trail and historic artifacts.

Imagination Station

300 Jimmie Leeds Road, Galloway Township

Hours: 9 a.m. to dusk

The park has something for every age — jungle gyms, Patriot Lake with a walking path, slides, swings, skate park, volleyball, picnic tables and pavilions that can be reserved. The entire park is handicapped accessible. The Galloway Township library is across the street.

Birch Grove Park

1700 Burton Ave, Northfield

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (April to September)

This woodland park covers 271 acres and offers stocked fishing lakes, more than 50 campsites, a playground, trails, snack bar; nature, exercise and jogging trails; picnic tables and grills. See website for Bandstand Concert schedules.

Cape May County Park South — Fishing Creek Wildlife Preserve

130 Bayshore Road, Del Haven

609-886-6273, 1021/Parks

Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk

Admission and parking: Free

The park contains a soccer field, two basketball courts, barbecue grills, picnic pavilion, playground and a habitat for diverse plant and animal life. All amenities are free for personal use with a first come-first served structure for the athletic fields, courts and pavilion. Athletic fields for organized events must be scheduled through the park office.

Cape May Point State Park and Cape May Lighthouse

Light House Avenue, Cape May Point

609-884-2159, parksandforests/parks/capemay.html

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Entrance, beach and parking: Free

Lighthouse admission: $8 adults, $5 age 3 to 12, free age 3 and younger

This 224-acre park is home to the 157-foot high, 199-step Cape May Lighthouse. Activities within the park include hiking trails, surf fishing, picnic pavilions, guided bird and nature walks, children’s programs (call for a schedule of events), an environmental center, beach and boardwalk, a museum and visitor center. The park has a “Carry-In/Carry-Out Program” (bags are provided).

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